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Dutch Children Deemed The Happiest In The World By UNICEF | TODAY - YouTube
"According to a recent UNICEF study on well-being, children from the Netherlands are the happiest kids out of 29 of the world’s richest industrialized nations. Reporting for Sunday TODAY, NBC’s Keir Simmons takes a look at what’s behind the statistics."
netherlands  education  children  parenting  sfsh  wellbeing  motivation  howwelern  living  agency  howeteach  parentalleave  careers  work  life  bikes  biking  freedom  families  familytime  work-lifebalance 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The “parenting happiness gap” is real, new research confirms — Quartz
"It’s an almost immutable fact: Regardless of what country you live in, and what stage of life you might be at, having kids makes you significantly less happy compared to people who don’t have kids. It’s called the parenting happiness gap.

New research to be published in the American Journal of Sociology shows that American parents are especially miserable on this front, posting the largest gap (13%) in a group of 22 developed countries.

But the research also shows that it doesn’t have to be this way. Every other country had smaller gaps, and some, including Russia, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Hungary, and Portugal, actually showed happiness gains for parents.

The researchers, led by Jennifer Glass at the University of Texas, looked at what impact policies such as paid sick and vacation leave and subsidized child care have on closing that gap. It was 100%.

“As social scientists we rarely completely explain anything, but in this case we completely explain the parental happiness gap,” said Glass. In countries with the strongest family-friendly policy packages, “the parental deficit in happiness was completely eliminated, accomplished by raising parent’s happiness rather than lowering nonparents’ happiness,” the authors wrote.

It’s not just one policy, like paid parental leave, that makes the difference. It’s the magic of a package of policies spanning over a lifetime, that allow people to care for children, support them financially, and even enjoy them every once in awhile on a holiday.

The study looked at 22 European and English-speaking countries using surveys from prior to the recession, including the International Social Surveys of 2007 and 2008 and the European Social Surveys of 2006 and 2008. The group created a a three-item policy index including combined paid leave available to mothers, paid vacation and sick leave, and work flexibility, and then looked at the effect of the basket of policies, as well as the impact of each individual one, on closing the happiness gap.

They found that in countries high on the comprehensive policy index, there was no gap, or, parents were even happier than non-parents. Countries low on that index were less happy.

All policies are not created equal. Paid sick and vacation leave and subsidized child care showed the largest impact on improving the happiness of non-parents as well as parents, Glass said. This is important, because policies that spend tax money to help parents at the expense of non-parents tend to be less popular.

Studies like this present some obvious challenges. For one, people in the US are actually a weirdly happy lot overall. On a scale from 1-10, they log in around the 8-10 range. People in France rate their happiness in the middle of the scale, from 5-7. “We aren’t sure if this means the French are truly less happy than Americans, or just don’t think it is appropriate to use the extremes of any scale,” Glass wrote.

To allow for these cultural differences, the research focused on the differences between parents and non-parents in the same country. They asked: “What factors are associated with parents being less happy than nonparents, given their country’s overall average level of happiness?” The key is association (or correlation), and not causation, which is impossible to prove in studies like this.

It’s no big surprise that parents in Sweden, with its dreamy parental leave policies, are happier (compared to their non-parent peers) than parents in the US, where there is no paid leave for anything—having a baby, much less raising it. But the research helps point to which policies could help most.

Glass says it’s not that parents are unhappy. They often find parenting fulfilling, and wouldn’t have it any other way. But their stress levels tend to be high, which can overshadow any happiness to be gained from shepherding another human being through life.

And why should we even care about whether parents are happy? “Parental happiness does in fact determine our fertility rates, it does determine the types of bills we get for stress-related diseases,” Glass said. “When you have a system that is not very efficient in supporting parents, you can expect to have problems motivating people to have children and care for them.”

Conversely, she said, “People want to have more children when you make it possible for them to be effective parents and effective workers.”"

[See also: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/06/us-has-largest-parental-happiness-gap.html ]
parenting  us  happiness  policy  culture  government  kids  sweden  denmark  france  finland  russia  spain  españa  hungary  portugal  norway  jennifer  glass  paidleave  maternityleave  parentalleave  paternityleave  sociology  europe  vacation  childcare  society 
june 2016 by robertogreco
14 Surprising Things About Parenting in Sweden | A Cup of Jo
"On the Law of Jante: There’s an interesting cultural principal here and in a few other Scandinavian countries called the Law of Jante. It essentially means that one individual is not more special than any other, and you’re not to behave as if you are. When I was teaching ballet in Stockholm years ago, I noticed that my students were, indeed, reluctant to stand out. For example, they were quite timid when I asked them to demonstrate steps or propose new ideas to the class."



"On food: One of the funniest food customs I’ve observed here is the national tradition of having split pea soup and pancakes for lunch on Thursdays. The first time a Swede told me that, I thought he was joking, but the opera house where I work serves that meal every Thursday. I think all Swedish schools do it, too, and you’ll see it in restaurants. When Americans think of split pea soup it’s green, but here it’s more yellow, with white and yellow beans, and the meat is a pork sausage that’s sliced into the soup."



"On candy: Swedes eat more candy than anybody else in the world, something like 35 pounds of candy per person per year! Huge candy shops with impressive sections are everywhere. What intrigues me most about the Swedish sweet tooth is lördagsgodis or “Saturday candy.” Every Saturday, kids and often their parents fill bags with their favorite candy. Gummies and licorice are big favorites. Before I became a parent, I thought this was a great idea, but now I’ve seen what sugar does to my daughter!



On coziness: The Swedish word mysig is hard to translate, but technically means “to smile with comfort,” or be cozy. It’s an important concept here, where the winters are long and cold. You see candles everywhere, year round. When I first moved here, it struck me as a major fire hazard! But they’re everywhere and so beautiful. Sometimes we go to IKEA on weekends (“It’s cold and rainy, so let’s go to IKEA!”), and everyone buys their candles there! Everyone has candles in their carts at checkout.

Swedes even have a special word to describe curling up indoors on a Friday night: fredagsmys. You light candles, cuddle under a blanket on the sofa, eat candy and watch a movie. I love that there’s a verb for it."
sweden  coziness  parenting  families  children  astridlindgren  candy  food  pippilongstocking  alfonsaberg  alfieatkins  mysig  napping  fredagsmys  play  cold  climate  outdoors  motherhood  childcare  daycare  parentalleave  lawofjante  collectivism  community  summer  winter  scandinavia  via:jenlowe 
october 2015 by robertogreco
The American Way over the Nordic Model? Are we crazy? - LA Times
"In my long nomadic life, I've been to both poles and most countries in between. I still remember when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world.

Today, as one of 1.6 million Americans living in Europe, I instead face hard questions about our nation. Wherever I travel, Europeans, Asians and Africans ask expatriates like me to explain everything odd or troubling about the conduct of the United States. Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, ask pointedly about America's trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and "exceptionality."

Their questions share a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy?

At the absolute top of the list: "Why would anyone oppose national healthcare?" Many countries have had some form of national healthcare since the 1930s, Germany since 1880. Some versions, as in France and Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems. Yet even the privileged would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive healthcare. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not brutal.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially progressive in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system. In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have access to free education from age 6 through specialty training or university; low cost, subsidized preschool; unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining; paid parental leave; old age pensions, and more. These benefits are not a "safety net" — that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available as a human right, promoting social harmony.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially progressive in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system. In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have access to free education from age 6 through specialty training or university; low cost, subsidized preschool; unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining; paid parental leave; old age pensions, and more. These benefits are not a "safety net" — that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available as a human right, promoting social harmony.

This is the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universal social welfare, political democracy and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It's their system, begun in Sweden in the 1930s and developed across Scandinavia in the postwar period. Yes, they pay for it through high taxation. (Though compared with the U.S. tax code, Norway's progressive income tax is remarkably streamlined.) And despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?

They like it. International rankings cite Norway as the best place to grow old, to be a woman and to raise a child. The title of "best" or "happiest" place to live on Earth comes down to a neighborly contest among Norway and the neighboring Nordic social democracies, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

All the Nordic countries broadly agree that only when people's basic needs are met — when they cease to worry about jobs, education, healthcare, transportation, etc. — can they truly be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.

These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution. You know, the part about "We the People" forming "a more perfect Union" to "promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Knowing this, a Norwegian is appalled at what America is doing to its posterity today. That top chief executives are paid 300 to 400 times as much as an average employee. Or that Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state's debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from public pension funds. That two-thirds of American college students finish in the red, some owing $100,000 or more. That in the U.S., still the world's richest country, 1 in 3 children lives in poverty. Or that the multitrillion-dollar wars of Presidents George W. Bush and Obama were fought on a credit card, to be paid off by the kids.

Implications of America's uncivilized inhumanity lurk in the questions foreign observers ask me: Why can't you shut down that concentration camp in Cuba? Why can't you stop interfering with women's healthcare? What is it about science and climate change you can't understand?

And the most pressing question of all: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up trouble for all of us?

Europeans often connect America's reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order. They've watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace decaying infrastructure, weaken organized labor, bring its national legislature to a standstill and create the greatest degree of economic inequality in almost a century. As they see it, with ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, Americans are bound to be anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a national government that for three decades has done so little for them (save Obama's endlessly embattled modest healthcare effort).

In Norway's capital, where a statue of a contemplative President Franklin D. Roosevelt overlooks the harbor, many America-watchers think he may have been the last U.S. president who understood and could explain to the citizenry what government might do for all of them.

It's hard to pin down why America is as it is today, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others. Some Europeans who interrogate me say that the U.S. is "crazy" — or "paranoid," "self-absorbed," or simply "behind the times." Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely "misguided" or "asleep" and may still recover sanity. But wherever I travel, the questions follow, each suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others."
2015  annejones  us  healthcare  healthinsurance  socialsafetynet  scandinavia  norway  germany  uk  europe  inequality  equality  americandream  progressivism  socialism  capitalism  politics  policy  parentalleave  pensions  universality  nordiccountries  sweden  denmark  finland  iceland  individualism  equity  education  obamacare  affordablecareact  fdr 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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